Dementia

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Dementia refers to a group of degenerative mental diseases in which there is a serious loss of cognitive function which goes beyond normal ageing. Symptoms include confusion, mood swings, long-term memory loss and a gradual loss of bodily functions. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. It is caused due to plaque deposition in the brain’s neurons which affects its functioning and causes it to die. Why this happens is still not clear though research suggests it’s linked to genetic susceptibility and mental age.

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Causes

Dementia is a collective group of degenerative mental illnesses which is characterised by loss of cognitive function (beyond what is generally observed with normal ageing). The exact cause of dementia is still unknown but several situations can cause dementia. The common causes of dementia are -


  • Degeneration of brain cells (neurons)

  • Infections that affect the brain and spine

  • Brain abnormalities like hydrocephalus

  • Head injuries

  • Nutritional deficiencies

Risk Factors

The factors that increase the risk of dementia are -


  • Age and family history

  • Apart from these, the risk of developing dementia seems to increase with almost everything that is associated with mental health.

  • Because loss of cognitive function is a characteristic feature of dementia, factors like poor IQ will definitely have an effect on your risk factor for dementia.

  • Studies have also linked increased risk of dementia with factors like excessive alcohol intake, head injury, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and obesity.

Symptoms

Dementia being a group of mental diseases does not affect every person is a specific manner. Therefore two individuals suffering from dementia can exhibit totally different symptoms. However, in the initial stages the following symptoms may be seen:


  • Confusion

  • Memory loss

  • Mood swings

  • Loss of practical abilities

  • Withdrawal from social interactions

  • Gradual loss of body functions.


Here is a detailed information on 7 early signs of dementia you should know about

Treatment

There is no cure for dementia. The goal of treatment in dementia is to slow down the progression of the condition.

Drug therapy: It is commonly used for treatment of most forms of dementia like Alzheimer’s disease. For the symptoms of memory loss medications like cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine (Namenda) are prescribed.

Non-drug therapies: Sometimes, non-drug therapies like cognitive behavourial therapy also helps to alleviate a few symptoms of dementia.

Prevention

There are no specific preventive measures that can eliminate your risk of developing mental diseases. But few things that improve your brain functioning and reduce your risk of dementia are -

Active brain: Anything that keeps your brain active may reduce you risk of developing dementia. For example, people who like playing chess, solve crosswords and puzzles use their brain a lot more than others who don’t.

Diet and Exercise: Also, now we do have a lot of evidence which suggest that a healthy lifestyle and diet plays an important role in reducing the risk of dementia. According to a recent study by the University of Eastern Finland individuals who maintained a healthy diet (that includes plenty vegetables, fruits, fish, milk and unsaturated fats) between their 40s and 50s were at a reduced risk of developing dementia.

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